Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams: Elisabeth Tubajika

I met Elisabeth more than ten years ago when we both lived in South Africa. It was through social media that we reconnected again and when the idea for this piece came about, Elisabeth was one of the first people that came to mind. As a black woman, I have come to the realisation that it is important to celebrate your milestones and achievements regardless of whether the world co-signs with what you’re doing and who you are. No one embodies this better than Elisabeth. Elisabeth started a non-profit organization in Texas call ‘We are The Voice’ to celebrate the beauty of Congolese culture and also raise awareness on the inequality that the women in the Eastern region of Congo face. Elisabeth also has a podcast called ‘Master’s Piece’ with the aim of encouraging people to live in a way that glorifies God.

In your own words introduce yourself

Elisabeth is a wife, daughter, sister, aunt and a friend. I am and will always be a child of God that is my truest (if that’s a word) identity; without God I’m nothing.

 I am a proud Diaspora and native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Before I am an American I am a Congolese woman. It took a long time for me to embrace everything that is a part of me but I love being African and I love being a brown skin girl. To really make it simple Elisabeth (Kadesi) now Tubajika is a world changer. My mission before leaving this world is to have impact. whether that impact is big or small in the eyes of society, I pretty much don’t care. I want to inspire people to become their best version, I want to create, I want to build, and I want to empower. Oh I can’t forget to add this one I love to travel, laugh, dance and shop (Very important details lol).

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When it comes to the experiences and places that have shaped your life, what or who has contributed to the woman you are today?

The biggest contributors to the woman I am today goes to several people, some tangible and others intangible. The greatest influencers of my life are my parents, the greatest role model of being a Godly woman is my mom. I also have my sisters and friends who teach me so much about life & virtual mentors (if you know what I’m saying). A big contributor right now is my husband. Being married for 4 months now, he’s taught me a lot we’re both learning together.

In general, I love learning from people who refuse to be victims of life’s circumstances. People who are passionate about their purpose. The places that have really shaped my life are all condensed from experiences in Congo, growing up in a post-Apartheid South Africa and being an African in America.

What are some of the things that you’ve accomplished that fill you with unfiltered back joy?

Graduating from University was one of my greatest accomplishments as an African girl. I always thought that it wasn’t possible for me but when I got my 4-year degree, the possibilities seemed endless. Another great achievement for me was starting my first non-profit organization (We Are the Voice) in 2012. Our mission was to help the battered women of East Congo and promoting education for orphans in Africa. Congo at the time was constantly in the media with negative press; and though we did and still do have conflicts and wars I wanted to show Americans a different type of Congo.  The beauty behind despair. The Congo with riches, wealth, enough natural resources to assist the world, beautiful black women, talented artists, and a beautiful culture. To be able to gather people from everywhere to hear your story, your vision, is a beautiful achievement.

In light of your philanthropic endeavour, ‘We are The Voice’ what was the internal shift that needed to occur to move from being appalled by something, to doing something to make a change?

One thing, mind-set. It takes a mental decision to change the narrative of your story. To move from being a victim to a leader. Congo is such a powerful country but with poor infrastructure and leadership.   Who do we continue to blame? The Belgians, White people, western countries? I was tired of our country being portrayed as a victim; yes, we’ve been through a lot, but we’re not slaves. We’re warriors, kings and queens.

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 I did a lot of reading on my culture while in college; I was curious about African studies. I asked my dad a lot of questions, and those who grew up in Congo during the 1960’s (our independence). I read a lot of books and watched movies on great leaders who changed the trajectory of African politics and culture. If you’re tired of seeing negative press on your people start becoming the kind of person you would like to see in the press.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt on your journey thus far?

Nobody is responsible for your happiness. If you want something communicate! Say it, go get it, and most importantly do something.

How have you maintained the authenticity of your brand in this age of social media?

With social media everyone copies and imitates each other, and you can get discouraged feeling like your vision isn’t necessary. I heard this quote somewhere and it changed my view on authenticity. When you come from a place of experience, when you share and create based on your own experiences you will never lack content”. There is only one you and that is your superpower

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The climate that we’re in necessitates rest both physically and mentally for black women, how do you take care of yourself to prevent burnout?

The year 2020 has been a very challenging one for everyone with black lives matter, COVID19, and unemployment rates at its highest. I prioritize my mental health, is important to me. I don’t leave that responsibility to someone else. To keep my sanity in these times I have to run, pray, meditate, and watch a lot of comedy. My husband and I laugh a lot together so thank God the quarantine didn’t destroy us lol.  Another important step for me is controlling what I choose to watch. You have to manage every aspect of your being: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. They are all VERY important.

What advice would you give to the younger version of yourself?

I would tell that black girl that there’s nothing more beautiful than being yourself, you were supposed to be different embrace it.

What does it mean to you to be you ancestors wildest dreams?

Being my ancestors wildest dreams is a very profound statement. To me the question is what were my ancestors dreaming about? What were their desires? As black people we all come from different tribes and backgrounds, our history dynamics are so different. One thing our ancestors all had in common was the need to survive, to be free and to leave a legacy. I want to give my ancestors more than that, not only do I want my freedom, I want excellence for my people.  I want to thrive not only survive. I want my ancestors to see that I was able to be a steward of their history, wisdom and culture.

To my ancestors we’re tired of being victims of the past, we’re tired of only fighting, we hear you. It’s time to take our crowns back. We are royalty.

Our Ancestors Wildest Dreams: Intro

We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen.

Michelle Obama

In a system built to destroy you, joy is rebellion! My family arrived in a post-apartheid South Africa from a war torn Democratic Republic of Congo and the one thing I can always remember from those early years is never feeling as though I could fit in anywhere. I spent a lot of my primary school career trying not to be noticed. Whenever people asked where I was from, I was quick to shutdown anything that linked back to my heritage and answer Belgium. Which is true as my place of birth, but I remember very early on, learning to be ashamed of my blackness. I remember one girl calling me a ‘makwerekwere’, a derogatory term used in South African for foreigners. On the other side of the spectrum, my white schoolmates were being raised by parents who enforced the old apartheid regime. Black was bad, black was dirty, black was wrong. In a few peoples eyes it felt as though I was the ‘dirty black’ who dared to be in the same space that they were in. I was lucky enough to find a group of friends that made surviving high school , and a system that was so against me, much easier!

In my thirty years of being a black woman, I have gone through a plethora of emotions. At times I would wish I was the right type of black to fit in with everyone else, and on the other side I wished I was a more acceptable type of African…whatever that means. Other times I wished my nose was straighter, less bulbous and indicative of my blackness. It took going to study in London to help me find my true identity and to stand boldly in who I was as a black woman divinely crafted in the image of a breathtaking God. My first year in the U.K. was marvellous. I grew up in a tight-laced conservative Christian family. I had my first sip of alcohol at 17 and the lightweight that I am, I passed out (still happens 😂) but somehow I still had enough sense in me to remember to tell my friend to tell my mum that I’d fallen asleep if she came into the room and found me passed out. Such is the fear that having African parents can instil in you 😂. In London, away from my parents’ rule and away from being in the shadow of my siblings, I was my own person. For the first time in my life, I found myself surrounded by people who were from different cultures, but they carried their culture and blackness with pride. The black women I met weren’t ashamed of being black, my goodness they were stunning. I started to wear my hair in its natural texture, I experimented with colour contact lenses (black girl rite of passage…), I embraced not only my features but my skin colour as well. This is gonna sound a touch shallow, but it did boost my ego a lot that people…and by people I mean the hotties on campus, had a bit of jungle fever for the girl from Africa 🤷🏾‍♀️ very much a ‘Mean Girls’ moment! And while 2020 Aurélie has grown so much (praise be to Jesus,) and no longer needs male validation to thrive, I was 18 and very silly at the time.

In those years living in London, I truly believed and embodied a phrase made popular by Dark n Lovely: ‘my black is beautiful.’ Fast forward to when I met my husband. I was a bit jaded by romance and had no strong feelings about getting married. I knew if I wanted to have children, I could do that by myself. My mom was quite horrified by that, which humoured me a lot more than it should have. Hubby is the most refreshing part of my life. The bonus & most importantly: he did not fetishise back women like SOOO many other creeps I encountered before him. Neither of us have ever applied the phrase ‘I don’t see colour’ to our relationship. In fact we’ve always been transparent about the differences in our upbringing, and the lives we have so far led. There are so many things that make being married to Sam wonderful. I’ll gush about that in another post…

Hubby and I had some marvellous plans for the future, and then 2020 hit. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, black people were reminded of an enemy they have always had to face…racism.

The passing of Big Floyd reminded us all of how far we haven’t come since Martin Luther King marched at Selma, and Nelson Mandela become South Africa’s first black president in post-apartheid South Africa. I remember waking up on Saturday morning going for a run in an attempt to forget the emotional and mental trauma of realising once again that to some, black lives don’t matter. I recall coming back from my run the morning after the video of his passing circulated, and started to feel so ill that at some stage I asked myself ‘covid is that you?’ I woke up the next day feeling physically better largely due to a sleeping tablet, and as I continue in my attempts to heal from the collective trauma that the black community is dealing with, I am grateful for the sweet Holy Spirit that continues to remind me of something:

I am my ancestors wildest dreams

As a black woman, I should not be where I am. Free, educated, alive. And sometimes I forget that. I am notoriously bad at slowing down and smelling the roses. It truly takes ALL of heaven’s armies to stop me. This is one of those moments. The realisation that who I am today is what my parents, and grandparents (on my mothers side cause Lord knows our fathers always have messy family dynamics) prayed for.

As a black woman, I have often found myself in deep need of a pouring into my spirit that I am loved, valued and beautiful. I am grateful that I have very dear and lovely people who have seen this in me when I have not. As black people the world often times wants us to forget that we are loved, valued, and beautiful. This is a world that crushes so much of our spirits that we forget the beauty that being black is. What the enemy wants to do through racism is to break us. He wants to keep knocking us down until we get to a place where the trauma becomes a part of us, a part of our DNA that we continue to pass to our children, and their children, and their children. To get to a point where we grow so tired of fighting the microaggressions that we face on a daily basis that we retreat on the inside and start to feel the years of trauma breaking us down mentally, physically and emotionally. I refuse to be broken. The revolution WILL be televised and I will be part of it. This is where our ancestors wildest dreams comes in. An online space to remind black people of the beauty and magic that lies in their melanin. Some of them I have the privilege of knowing personally, and others I admire from afar. The magic embedded in the DNA of all black people will not be stopped. Our stories of success and overcoming in spite of the odds so heavily stacked against us, will not be erased. I look forward to sharing more from a community who are EVERYTHING that their ancestors dreamt of!